For one runner, 43 marathons began in middle age—with a 5k fun run.
It started out on a lark.
“I did the fun run on the spur of the moment,” says Linda Klute. “I was not a runner and I ended up placing. And it was like ‘Oh my gosh, I actually won a prize.’”
The fun run was held during HFMA’s ANI meeting in 1990, and after participating, Klute was hooked: The experience led her to begin training and participating in longer races until she ran her first marathon in 1994. Over the next 23 years, she would run in 42 more marathons—the latest in October at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Klute’s first adult running experience also was instructive because event organizers had included pre-race instruction for novice runners. “They had us get together with a coach who gave a little lecture on what to do,” says Klute, a senior adviser for Integrated Project Management Co. Inc. and a member if HFMA’s First Illinois Chapter. “So I have HFMA to thank for being a runner.”
Now 68, Klute finished 10th in her age group among the Chicago marathon’s more than 44,000 runners. “The crowds are awesome,” Klute says of the one-million-plus spectators who lined that race. “They’re cheering you on, so you’re like ‘Well, I gotta go.’”
The Chicago race in Klute’s hometown is her favorite, in part because it doesn’t require complex travel plans. And a scenic marathon along the Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad, Calif., is “definitely” her second-favorite marathon. But she also has competed in marathons in Boston, New York, Anchorage, Tucson, and Duluth.
The lifestyle benefits also motivate her. Those benefits include stress reduction and the social interactions. “If you go out in a running group or go out in a race you are with people of every single category of occupation, profession, stage of life,” Klute says. For instance, this summer Klute trained with runners in their 20s who were preparing for their first marathon and others in their 60s who have run many such races.
Klute, who practices for marathons with the Chicago Area Runners Association, appreciates the structured training that marathon runners follow in preparation for each race. Such carefully planned training schedules spell out daily marathon preparation steps over an 18-week training period, including the number of miles to run each day and which days to rest.
“If you want to run a marathon, you pick a training program and stick with it as much as you possibly can,” Klute says. “You have a life, a family, and a job to fit it in with, but it becomes part of that routine. It takes focus and discipline, but that’s what keeps you in it.”
That group’s regimen includes meeting at 6 a.m. every Saturday to run along the Chicago lakefront. “You would think ‘How can you be social at 6 a.m.,’ but the group helps each other,” Klute says. “Some days you feel great and you’re helping someone else; other days you’re a little sluggish and the group gets everybody going.”
That social support is big source of the mental strength that such endurance running requires, she says. “It’s competitive, but at the same time it is very supportive,” Klute says about races where she runs alongside runners ranging in age from 20 to more than 80.
Running most mornings around her hometown also has given her a chance to get to better know her fellow Chicagoans. “I have white hair and I look like a little old lady, and people are giving me thumbs up all of the time, saying things like, ‘Wow, look at this little old lady,’” Klute says. “You meet a lot of people, and people are nice to you when you’re out there running.”
The health benefits include “sleeping like a rock and you can eat whatever you want and you don’t gain weight,” Klute says. “You do feel good; you feel healthy all of the time.”
Klute suggests prospective runners start slow and pick a comfortable pace. The marathon veteran observes that people just beginning tend to start out too fast, so they get out of breath and hurt, and they end up thinking the whole experience is awful. She suggests cross-training can be a big help, and she credits it with providing her the much-needed strength to finish races. For her, that includes strength training, biking, and yoga. “You need to be able to hold out for the 26.2 miles,” Klute says.